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The JBL Boombox series is meant for those who want more from their speakers.
Louder, bigger, and with plenty of hours of partying in it, the original Boombox made the average backpack-friendly JBL look and sound small.
Now that I finally got my hands on the next in the series, I’ll explain what it’s like to own the BoomBox 2 and whether it’s worth buying three years after its release.
When it first came out in 2020, videos of the speaker on sandy beaches, mountain tops, and floating on pools filled social media.
As an eager music & road trip lover, I took my time to enjoy the BoomBox 2 in that style first, turning it into my companion for adventurous summer travels and occasional outdoor partying, as most of you reading this article would.
Upfront, I’ll say it delivered in setting the mood and getting the party going with volume and super sound; however, a life spent working in studios, a collection of speakers, a passion for the outdoors, and a reputation among readers as a somewhat audiophile had me note down the size, weight and inclination toward bass-heavy tunes make the Boombox 2 not fit for everyone’s music taste and traveling style.
I would have been shocked by the size and weight of the packaging if I didn’t own another Boombox and experienced it before – It’s a big box for an equally big speaker, packed nice and safe like every JBL product. There were neither good nor bad surprises here.
The only thing I was expecting but didn’t find was a simple fabric bag or at least straps to hold the Boombox.
Asking for a quality case in the box is too much for every non-professional audio equipment. However, for a high-end speaker meant to stay mostly outdoors, anything to protect it from dust and make it easy to carry would help.
If anything will make you purchase a high-end speaker like the Boomboox, it will be the sound quality – since it’s the first thing I tested, I’ll get right to it.
Depending on the setting and style of music you like, the Boombox 2 could be the best Bluetooth speaker you heard or just one of the great ones. For me, it was something in between those two.
The first thing I did was crank it up to full power and heard no audible distortion whatsoever in the sound. It never sounded harsh; quite the opposite, the bass got louder and louder while the high-end only exaggerated if you stood too close to it. Surely, there was a lot of compression and a few sound artifacts, but I didn’t mind it much, considering I might only crank it this loud in a large outdoor space where both effects are not noticeable.
I don’t always listen to loud music, so I loved how the bass felt at an average volume, an impressive feat I have never experienced with any other smaller JBL speaker unless I cranked it super loud. I experienced this when comparing smaller guitar amps with massive ones or small studio monitors to big ones, so it was expected. Bigger is not just loud; it’s more detailed.
I found it perfect for bass-heavy songs that serve the purpose of making everyone move. The hip-hop kick drum, trap subs, and EDM groove had the same intensity of a proper sound system and got better the louder the speaker; it’s easy to tell that JBL had in mind precisely this kind of music. Every song I placed had the punch the producer intended to give when mixing the tune.
What I only enjoyed up to a point was music that relies a lot on the stereo image and acoustic instruments. Rock, Metal, Jazz, and all the genres that don’t rely on the sub-bass felt like they had a slight gap between the bass and high – in other words, you could feel the bass, but you couldn’t clearly hear the bass guitar notes unless you take out the bass with the EQ.
Saying the mid-range is not solid is exaggerating; the best way to describe it is that it compromises some of the substance of a song to have more bass.
This said, all kinds of music sound huge, compared to a normal-sized JBL speaker, and superior to the Boombox 1. Yet, if you’re picky about it, you won’t have the same sound separation as a pair of studio monitors or the more advanced BoomBox 3. There’s an okay Left and Right channel separation, but it’s still relatively narrow for a very accurate stereo effect.
Overall, I liked more how the speaker sounds outdoors than indoors. The bassy nature helps it retain a full, warm sound outside and inside, though not all rooms sound great, and in most cases, the bass reverberated too much and muddied up the music.
Overall, if the only relevant spec of the speaker was the sound quality, I would buy it in a heartbeat all over again.
Boombox 2 Portability
I took the speaker on the first camping trip; all was fine until we had to make a one-hour trail from the parking spot to the campsite. It’s too big for a backpack and impossible to carry on a mountain bike. It’s a lot of weight for one hand to carry, so we took turns.
To put it in perspective, here’s the Boombox compared to a hand-sized speaker and the ‘standard’ one, which you can clip to a bike or the side pocket of a backpack.
Definitely not a speaker I would pick for hiking, trailing, or any outdoor adventure that doesn’t include a car. The last thing I want in the summer heat is to have my hand busy with a 13-pound speaker.
I like to think of the portability of the Boombox 2 in the sense of ‘let’s find the place it sounds best at’ once you’re settled in the party, and not ‘let’s walk across town with the speaker in hand to get to the party.’
Design & Built Quality
Right out of the box, I felt the difference from the Boomboox 1 when I held the handle. It’s still bulky but looks smaller to the eye and slicker due to the extra details JBL put in.
We cross into the subjective realm here, but the shaking drivers on the sides were the visual highlight of the speakers. Watching them move to the beat of my favorite tunes was and is still very enjoyable entertainment. It’s especially great looking at night when only the buttons and JBL logo are visible.
Design-wise, I wouldn’t say I liked the big power adaptor, which is the size of my old laptop’s charger. Compared to the speaker, it’s small, yet something more to remember to pick up before heading out.
There’s not much to say about the durability. I felt comfortable placing the speaker everywhere: on the sand, on wet ground, in the rain, or sitting for hours in the sun. All the talk about resistance to the elements is true; the only way the Boombox 2 will break is if it falls from a height, and even so, I’m more worried about the floor.
Connectivity & Ease of Use
Connecting to all JBLs is smooth as silk; the Boombox 2 was no different, with quite an impressive range. The sound never lagged, and I could be the DJ while freely mingling in all corners of our small party – spreading the task with another friend connecting our two phones was also flawless.
I like having an app, yet besides the party boost feature, I found little use for it. The minimalistic EQ bothered me the most, which never improves after years of updating.
Three frequency bands are not enough to cut out a bad frequency in a room – there’s a sweet spot between the high and mids and another between the mids and low, which I desperately wanted to cut out when listening to music in my office and couldn’t.
The Micro USB port doesn’t really cut it in 2003. I wish it also had one or more USB-C inputs on the back. My phone doesn’t have an AUX, and even my charge is USB-C on both sides. To charge my iPhone, I had to charge another power bank from the Boombox or use an adaptor.
I charged the speaker only once in the first week and played music at low volumes a few hours daily, along with 5 hours of loud music during the weekend. Battery goes hand in hand with size, but so does the charge time, which takes an entire afternoon.
For a party, I’d recommend you play music with the charger on as the Sub bass is more robust, even in battery mode, though there’s no need to worry that it will die mid-party.
JBL BoomBox 2 Alternatives
I own multiple speakers, as they all serve different tasks. Here are a few other alternatives that can light up a party, like the Boombox 2.
The Motion Boom Plus is the most similar budget alternative to the Boombox 2, with the advantage of being easier to carry around on foot. It’s half the price and less than half the weight, almost as sturdy and long-lasting as the Boombox, but with a considerable difference in sound quality.
The most significant difference is sound is the low-end. The Motion Boom can’t deliver the same power or quality at low volumes, and the audio becomes less defined when you crank it. Considering the price difference, it still does very well compared to anything in the 200 price range and even slightly higher.
The Orange Box is the hippie version of the Boombox 2. If the latter goes a long way to stand out as modern, the Orange will draw you back to the 60s in sound and looks, inspired by the legendary amp builder.
The Orange Box doesn’t have the subs and low end, nor the volume of the Boombox; however, it has more transparent mid-range and rounded highs. It’s oriented to a different kind of music consumer, who enjoys mostly rock, jazz, blues, and anything involving acoustic instruments.
On the downside, it’s not a good party speaker. It won’t last as long as the Boombox and is less resistant to outdoor accidents.
The Xtreme 3 is smaller in size and sound but still has all the best qualities of a JBL. It’s my speaker of choice that can hold a small party, and I can still carry it in my backpack while riding my bike to the party or any outdoor location,
It has an excellent, well-balanced, defined sound with plenty of volume. The best way to describe the Xtreme 3 is a shrunk-down version of the Boombox 2, with less bass, power, and battery life.
Even at low volumes, the Boombox 2 sounds better – the Xtreme 3 is a close match, but you need to crank it up more to feel the low-end.
Good for Everyone – Exceptional for Some
After a few weeks of putting the speaker in different situations, my final verdict is that no one will be disappointed by its quality and sound; bass lovers and most modern music listeners will find sonic heaven, and the rest will still find it great with only glimpses of areas to improve sonically.
The only turn-off for buying one is the size and weight. If you want a speaker to join your outdoor adventure trips that don’t involve a car, there are better choices at a lower price.
Bottom Line Summary: For most situations, the Boombox 2 is a great crowd pleaser. It’s one of the best in it’s class and well worth the money.
The matter is only getting the Boombox to the party – once it’s there, you can safely rely on the impressive volume, detailed sound, and battery life.
Final Verdict 7.5 out of 10
JBL Boombox 2 Pros
- Modern and slick design
- Excellent built quality that can stand any outdoor condition
- Very loud, able to hold a party by itself
- Long battery life
- Strong Bluetooth signal for up to two devices simultaneously
- Impressive bass/sub-bass and crisp, clear highs; perfect for bass-heavy songs
- Retains sound quality when loud with a tolerable amount of compression
JBL Boombox 2 Cons
- Too heavy and large to carry for outdoor adventures without a car
- For certain music styles, especially indoors, the bass muddies up the sound
- No USB-C port
- Limited EQ frequency bands
- No bag included with the box
Question: Which Is better, JBL Boombox or JBL PartyBox?
Answer: The JBL PartyBox speakers are louder, with more power and clarity at high volumes compared to Boombox speakers; on the downside, they are not portable like the Boombox’s and are less suited for any kind of trip due to the weight, size, and overall less robust built quality.
Question: Is the JBL Boombox 2 louder when plugged in?
Answer: The Boombox 2 is louder and has a wider frequency response when plugged in; besides more volume, the sub-bass becomes more robust and deeper.
Question: Does The JBL Boombox 2 have a subwoofer?
Answer: No, the JBL Boombox 2 has two subwoofers that emulate the sound of a small subwoofer almost to perfection.